How went the Bush-Abbas meeting at the White House last Friday? Depends on whom or what you read. Most newspapers highlighted Bush’s criticism of Israel’s security wall while relegating to secondary status the president’s sharp words to Abbas about the necessity of halting Palestinian terror. A random sampling:
Though the Boston Globe trumpeted its piece “Bush Faults Israel on West Bank Wall,” staff writer John Donnelly offered a nuanced report, opening with: “President Bush, welcoming a Palestinian leader to the White House for the first time since he took office two and a half years ago, criticized Israel yesterday for building a security wall in the West Bank, but also insisted three times that the most important factor in advancing Mideast peace was the Palestinians’ ability to stop terror attacks.”
The New York Times was relatively even-handed in its coverage, with reporter Richard W. Stevenson writing: “The president suggested that he was supportive of the Palestinians on one topic raised by Mr. Abbas: Israel’s construction of a security fence that is cutting into Palestinian areas on the west Bank. But he said the onus was on Mr. Abbas to clamp down on terrorist activities by Palestinian groups, and he rebuffed calls by Palestinians for Israel to release as many as 6,000 prisoners it is holding, many accused by Israel of taking part in
The worst of the reports examined by the Monitor was a monstrosity of unbalanced journalism that appeared in the New York Daily News. Wrote Kenneth Bazinet of the News’s Washington Bureau: “President Bush slammed Israel yesterday for building a security fence in the West Bank, but also refused to push for the release of more Palestinian prisoners.”
“Slammed?” Talk about overheated – and grossly inaccurate – wording. Bazinet didn’t stop there, painting a word picture of a White House ‘miffed’ at Sharon for ‘ignor[ing] U.S. demands’ and claiming that an unnamed “U.S. diplomatic official scoffed at the idea that the fence will make Israelis safe from terrorism. “The Palestinians are being corralled, not kept out,” the official said.”
If the Daily News had the most distorted coverage of the Bush-Abbas meeting, the Washington Times had the best, not only giving top billing to Bush’s tough talk on terror, but including more of Bush’s statements than most other newspapers.
The Times headlined its story “Bush, Abbas Collide Over ‘Road Map’ Obstacles,” and correspondent Joseph Curl led with this model of accurate reportage: “Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas yesterday charged that Israel’s failure to stem violence in the Middle East threatens prospects for peace, but President Bush in a sharp retort said terrorism is the biggest obstacle.”
A little further on Curl wrote: ” “I’m going to tell you point-blank that we must make sure that any terrorist activity is rooted out in order for us to be able to deal with these big issues,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Abbas in a Rose Garden appearance.”
Curl treated the issue of the security wall as an irritant at best, noting that “Mr. Bush did not join Mr. Abbas in calling for Israel to remove the wall, but did say the security boundary around large sections of Palestinian territory, ostensibly to protect Israeli civilians from terrorist attacks, was a ‘problem.’ ”
Could there be two more completely different accounts of the same event than the reports filed by Curl of the Washington Times and Bazinet of the Daily News? As to the question of which account is more trustworthy, the Monitor would never put its money on the Daily News, a paper that not only qualifies as the most boring daily newspaper in the tri-state area, but one that’s terribly inconsistent as well – testament to publisher Mortimer Zuckerman’s annoying penchant for firing editors almost as often as Italy changes prime ministers.
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Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org